The violation in war it is an affirmation of power and domination. A strategy. A weapon. It is the way to subdue the enemy through women, to make him flee from his lands, to shame him. Rape leads, in many cases, to victory and leaves victims who, despite being alive, will never overcome the traumas suffered and in most cases will be doubly punished for the rejection of a patriarchal society who will blame them for what happened.
British correspondent for ‘The Sunday Times’, awarded in 2013 by the Queen isabel II With the Order of the British Empire and elected five times the best correspondent in the country, Christina Lamb presents in her book ‘Our Bodies, Their Battles’ (Main), the stories of dozens of women victims of the sexual violence in armed conflicts.
-Sexual violence has always occurred in the warWhy do you show in your book that it has increased significantly?
-Women have been a group especially punished in wars since the beginning of time. Sexual violence is not an invention nor is it anything new, but the fact of using it strategically, as a weapon, is, and it is happening more and more. Rape is one of the most effective ways to cause panic and is cheaper than a simple kalashnikov bullet. It allows you to humiliate a community or make people flee an area to usurp it without investing resources. In addition, it does not only cause physical suffering. On many occasions the victim is stigmatized in the community where he lives, to such an extent that many are forced to flee and exercise prostitution to survive after being rejected and continue to be abused over and over again.
-The rise of feminism and globalization have brought this phenomenon to light. Why is it so difficult to make the cases known?
-Many women have feared to report for many years and have lived thinking that they were the ones who had done something wrong. There is more awareness now because women have been encouraged to talk about the issue helping them to understand that it was not their fault. The sad thing is that it costs a lot to bring the guilty to justice and even more so that they receive convictions. In recent years, as in the case of Yazidi women enslaved by the Islamic State or the girls abducted by Boko Haram, none of the perpetrators have been brought to justice and that does not help to raise their voices.
-Is rape more typical in a specific type of conflict?
-No. It does not depend on a type of conflict, not even on one area of the world, there are cases from Nigeria, Iraq, Rwanda, Argentina … The reasons are different, but the result is the same. It does not always happen ‘far’. The same thing happened to us in Europe, in Bosnia, among neighbors who knew each other and were educated. And even in Spain during the Spanish Civil War. Rape in war does not respond to a type of conflict or society.
-So, if they are not just terrorists, who carries out these sexual crimes?
-From soldiers to police or the neighbors themselves. It occurs in cases in which the rapists are covered up or protected and in which the victims would rather be dead. This creates a extreme vulnerability, because they cannot report their aggressors because they are the same ones who should defend them.
-How can you help stop these attacks?
-We must speak openly about it, debate, hear testimonies and see how justice is done. If in countries where women have access to education it is difficult to report, in countries where they have hardly any rights it is even more complicated and in many cases the culprits are even in power. In our societies, in Europe, less than 3% of cases are prosecuted and brought to trial, With everything it implies. Each case is different, but what generally leads women to publicly denounce what they have suffered is to prevent it from happening to another. For decades women have suffered in silence, afraid of what their families might think. Now there are women who are willing to die for justice, but that does not mean that they are willing to face their rapists in court.